It is 3,000 miles away and California trainer Gary Jones is watching the featured Martha Washington Stakes from Laurel Race Course on TV.
"Is the course that deep or the horses that slow?" Jones wants to know.
The soft going at Laurel yesterday at least provided the connections of beaten 3-5 favorite, Avie's Fancy, with an excuse for losing the $100,000 stakes.
The 3-year-old, New Jersey-based filly was supposed to breeze to the lead. Instead 22-1 long shot Tee Kay bullied her way through the jumbled field at the start and led to a wire-to-wire upset, paying $47.40 for a $2 win bet.
Try as he might, New Jersey jockey Jose Ferrer never could get Avie's Fancy to the front, even when he began hitting her left-handed approaching the final turn.
Tee Kay, who was making her first stakes start after a long winter and spring layoff, extended her lead in the stretch, beating Avie's Fancy by 1 1/4 lengths. Lady Ellen finished third.
Even though the Martha Washington was her first stakes win, the filly had shown promise last year, finishing second in the Selima Stakes to Irish Forever and placing in two other added-money events. The horse is owned by Jack Dudley, the Florida horseman who campaigned 1956 Kentucky Derby winner Needles, and is trained locally by John Salzman Jr.
It was a big "welcome home" win for veteran jockey Rick Wilson, who lives with his family in Sykesville, but rode at Monmouth Park this summer, finishing second in the standings there to Joe Bravo and winning numerous stakes.
Wilson will now ride in Maryland for the winter and spring.
"Our plans were to let Avie's Fancy go to the front and come from off the pace," Wilson said. "But my filly came out of there running so I decided to go the front and try to slow down the pace."
Wilson went the half mile in a slow 48 seconds, six furlongs in 1 minute, 13 seconds "and then I had plenty left for the stretch," he said.
The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:45 1/5, the third-slowest running of the Martha Washington Stakes.
Ferrer blamed his loss on the soft turf. Mark Perlsweig, trainer of Avie's Fancy, said he is unperturbed by the defeat. He still plans to run Avie's Fancy at Keeneland at the end of the month in the Grade I Queen Elisabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes.
Since all graded stakes-winning turf fillies are automatically invited to the race, it means that Laurel-based Tee Kay might also be in the lineup.
Tribulation, last year's Queen Elisabeth winner, finished fourth in the Martha Washington.
Jones, who is used to running on hard California grass courses, has a vested interest in the condition of the Laurel turf strip.
On Tuesday, he will fly Frank Stronach's multiple stakes-winning filly, Cool Air, from Santa Anita Park to Laurel for Saturday's $200,000 Laurel Dash.
But he is unconcerned even if the course is soft. "I ran her once at Calder [in Miami] on a wet course and she won in 56 3/5 [seconds for five furlongs], so it shouldn't bother her," Jones said.
Jones added that his son, Marty, will be at Laurel to supervise Cool Air's training. The horse will be stabled with local horseman Bud Delp.
Jones said that Chris Antley will fly in from California to ride Cool Air in the Dash in which she faces her California rival, Soviet Problem.
NOTES: Laurel jockey Steve Hamilton rides in his first $1 million stakes when he guides Daniel Borislow's Dinner In Rio in the Rothmans Ltd. International at Woodbine Race Course on Sunday. The horse's trainer, John Scanlan, said he will work Dinner In Rio a mile at Laurel today and then ship him to Canada on Tuesday. . . . Marilyn Goldman, trainer of Miss Claratius, said her filly is fine and added that she will run her today in the Selima Stakes. The horse had grabbed her heel in her stall Thursday night, but now appears OK.